Email is a powerful tool for keeping customers and prospects connected to your business, delivering news and promotions and deepening relationships. But with most people’s inboxes overflowing, how do you stand out from the crowd?


We asked entrepreneurs their secrets for engaging their customers and prospects using email. Here’s how they responded:


Create “lead magnets” and nurture campaigns

I use Mailchimp to deliver simple email-nurture marketing series to my clients. Sending three to five emails after a client signs up for a lead magnet seems to do the trick. A lead magnet can be an ebook, checklist, webinar, video course, online challenge or something free that still provides great value and gets your potential clients into your sales funnel. Use enticing subject lines, avoid spam triggers and collect emails from anyone and everyone whenever you can!

Melisa Celikel, CEO, Make SHT Happen, San Diego


Make your first emails count

When you add a new contact to your email list, make sure that your first three emails are added value. What I mean by that: Do not ask for anything. Do not focus on your next sale. Do not send any special offers. Just offer advice regarding the product or service you are selling. This tactic works especially well for service businesses. We do this for new prospects, and our open rates are 58%, 46% and 30%, sequentially, for each of those first three emails. While the open rate drops over the course of those three emails, it consistently stays well above typical email-marketing open rates. When you focus on the first communication being as if you are offering advice to a friend, you are developing a relationship with your prospective customer. After establishing the relationship, you can gather more information and move into sharing more about your product or service.

Katherine Hunter-Blyden, founder and principal, KHB Marketing Group, Pasadena, California 


Guide buyers through the purchasing cycle

Email marketing is especially helpful to businesses like ours—an online engagement ring retailer—that have a longer purchasing cycle. Customers need to be guided through a phase of discovery, education, trust-building and finally, conversion. Email marketing can hold their hand through all of these phases and get them to the end goal: the purchase. Post-sale, email marketing can also build long-term value and keep your brand on customers’ minds for any future needs. Our engagement rings sell better when there is a personal touch to our emails, such as a personal message to the customer or a recommendation.

Slisha Kankariya, co-founder and CMO, With Clarity, New York City


Follow the buyer journey

Map your email offerings to where a buyer is at in their journey. For example, if you’re selling complex B2B software (like we do), then a 25% discount in the first email would not make as much sense as a simple explainer video with an offer for the prospect to schedule a demo. Understand the needs of your audience at each step and ensure your emails align to what your audience wants.

—Wes Marsh, marketing director, BCA Technologies, Maitland, Florida


Segment your list

If you have an email list, look at your open rates and identify the people who are highly engaged. Do research to find out who these people are, and if possible, segment them into smaller lists based on their specific businesses, interests, geography and such. The “segment” is arbitrary, but it will help you focus your message. Reach out to these segmented lists—or even individuals, if you have a high-value prospect—with personal messages based on the segment’s focus. Doing this deepens relationships. You’ll get to know your general audience and learn more about what they like and want more of.

David Hooper, founder, Big Podcast, Nashville, Tennessee


Mix it up 

As a small jewelry business, we use emails not only for marketing, but to let customers know when their work is completed. There are two types of campaigns our customers love: One is getting emails about the latest designs we have completed; we include a picture, a price and more information about the pieces. The second is getting updates on their jewelry designs, repairs and other services. They like that so much more than just receiving a phone call. What we have found, though, is that you have to switch it up. That’s why we don’t use emails purely for marketing. From educational videos to new products to service-related notifications, we email about all of it—and our customers seem to love it.

Steve Moriarty, co-owner, Moriarty’s Gem Art, Crown Point, Indiana


Attach promotions to transactional emails

Email platforms like SendGrid, Mandrill and Mailgun are all designed to power emails that are typically sent out post-transaction, such as receipt emails, thank-you emails, order confirmations, shipping updates and account changes. These emails tend to have very high open rates (and sometimes recipients open them more than once). That makes them the perfect channel to introduce new information, promotions and shareable content with your customers. We’ve seen a big impact with simple things like adding an alert about an upcoming sale to our notification emails or adding time-sensitive up-sells to our receipt emails to encourage the customer to come back within a defined time period. It’s a costly mistake to overlook the marketing power of your transactional emails.

Seth Kravitz, CEO, PHLEARN, Chicago


What email strategies have you found help engage customers and prospects with your business? Let us know in the comments section below.


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